DIY Solar pool cover towing boom for €20
A towing boom is something that fits to the leading edge end of the cover and allows you to pull the cover onto the pool easily and without water spilling onto the top of it. My floating ‘bubble’ pool cover didn’t come with a tow boom so instead of paying over €100 for a commercial kit one I made my own for about €20!
The floating cover on my swimming pool saves wasting thousands of litres of water through evaporation but it was difficult to put the cover on the pool quickly. It is easy to become complacent and not bother covering the pool following an early morning swim.
How I made it
This was a DIY project full of improvisation which I kind of made up as I went along – just as any competent DIY tinkerer does! It is certainly not a precise construction guide.
- Bungee cord. (Elastic ‘rope’). Readily available from hardware shops. I bought 10m at €0.20c a metre.
- Pool noodles. Flotation aids also known as worms/logs (with hole through the centre). I used 3 and they cost around €4 each here in Cyprus.
- Plastic eyelet washers. These come in two pieces and snap together, usually sold for use on tarpaulin sheets. I got a pack of 10 for about €3.
- Carabiners. Metal spring clip things to attach to the bungee cord. They don’t need to be expensive as you’re not going to be using them to hang off cliffs! Mine cost about €0.20c each and 4 were used in this project.
- Plastic piping. This is to put through the centre of the noodles to hold them together and add some rigidity. I bought a 4m length 20mm pipe for about €2 (my pool is 4.5m wide but with the rounded corners the actual leading edge of my cover is about 3.8m). For longer lengths some pipes can be linked together as they have a wider mouth at one end or you can get short connector pieces.
- Straps or waterproof rope. This is to create the ‘hook’ triangle which is attached to the bungee during deployment of the cover. I actually had some spare straps which are used to attach the cover to the roller so I used them. They are about 1m long and I used two of them.
- Cut noodles to length and insert pipes. With the cover out of the pool on your deck/patio lay one noodle in the centre of the leading edge. Do not cut this one. Place one noodle on each side of the centre one and cut to length to match the full width of the leading edge of the cover. Now insert the plastic piping through the hole in the centre of the noodles and cut to length.
- Attach strap(s)/rope. Temporarily slide the noodles so there is a gap on each end of the centre noodle. Tie a strap (or waterproof rope) around the piping on each end of the centre noodle and then slide the noodles back to close the gap. Tie the other ends of the two straps together by folding back about 20-30cm and tying to create a loop which you can attach a carabiner to. You could just use a single 2m length of strap or rope – improvise – that’s how I did this project in the first place!
- Attach boom to cover. The boom is attached to the cover using short lengths of bungee cord threaded through the plastic eyelets. Mark where to put the eyelets and depending on the type you either push them together from each side of the cover and that process creates the hole or pre-cut the hole. The short lengths of bungee cord are stretched slightly around the boom and the ends tied in a knot on the underside of the cover.
- Make an anchor on pool steps rail. As you can see in the video I used another piece of bungee cord tied to the base of the handle/rail with another carabiner on it. This is used to clip the main length of bungee cord when deploying the cover.
- Main bungee cord. The main length of bungee cord has a carabiner tied to each end and is used as shown in the video. I experimented with different lengths of bungee cord for the best tension results. My pool is 9m long and I ended up with a length of bungee cord that was 4.5m un-stretched. The key thing about using bungee cord here instead of rope is that it allows the ‘semi-automatic’ bit as shown in the video by deploying the first part of the cover as you unwind the pool cover roller.
About my cover
Although I have referred to my cover as a solar cover it is not actually the kind that raises the temperature the water to prolong the swimming season. My cover is a heat reflective cover. In Cyprus during the peak summer season you really don’t want the water being heated up. If you take the cover off you lose the benefit of reducing evaporation. So I found a company based in the UK called Plastipack Ltd. who make a cover designed to reflect the suns rays called CoolGuard so it doesn’t have the effect of heating up the water. It does still have the effect of retaining the ambient temperature of the pool so the water doesn’t cool down much at night. This is good before and after the peak season here but during the hotter months I sometimes leave the cover off at night to let the water cool down a bit.
The video above was made in 2009 and the cover has weathered a bit since then as can be seen in this photo. The cover still functions perfectly though and the Twiglet the cat likes it too.
Update: 2017, 8 years later…
After almost 8 years of service it’s time to order another Plastipack (or Geobubble as they call themselves now) CoolGuard cover. In the last year I think many of the bubbles have become perforated and as a result have taken on water. It still floats OK, reflects the heat and eliminates evaporation but when wound onto the roller it is really heavy and difficult to move. The manufacturer says the cover has a life span of only 6 years – I have to disagree, and I don’t exactly look after it!! I never cover it when it is on the roller and in the winter I just leave it with no chemicals in the pool and let the weather, dirt & grime do it’s worst, only scrubbing it down in the spring. Cyprus summers are harsh to anything left out in the sun, our pool gets no shade and Summer temperatures (in the shade) can be in the 30’s from May through to September/October peaking close to 40 degrees in August.
It is possible that the perforations are a result of general misuse – when I clean it I just lay it on the stone patio and zap it with a high pressure jet washer while walking all over it – not the best way to treat it! I reckon if I’d taken a bit more care of it it wouldn’t need replacing for another few years. It is also possible that the repeated high speed excursions by cats across the cover may also have had something to do with the recent demise of some of the bubbles!
UPDATE!!! August 2017: My new CoolGuard cover with ‘GeoBubble’ technology has arrived in Cyprus – I’m just waiting to get a proper tow kit shipped here (I decided to ‘splash out’ this time) before I install it do my follow up blog and video – details to follow!
It is not a Safety Cover
Floating ‘bubble’ pool covers are not safety covers. They cannot support the weight of a human or large animal such as a dog (cats seem OK though). If your pool requires safety provision, for example because there are children around, then a child proof fence is a great solution. Check out my friends over at Safe-T-First Pool Safety who sell those and other pool safety solutions – Lloyd, the owner of the business, has also put loads of great info on their website about pool safety.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them below.